Lying underneath a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 on an increasingly scorching Friday, the instant chill of Jyväskylä lake felt like a lifetime ago. It was a month-and-two days since Oliver Solberg took a dip to celebrate an extraordinary sixth overall in Finland.
Welcome to rallying’s flip side.
The fuel problems which silenced his Škoda through the Friday stages of Acropolis Rally Greece delivered a killer blow to the 21-year-old’s hopes of another dominant performance. Worse, it finished the Solberg WRC2 title tilt.
“It’s over,” Oliver told DirtFish quietly.
And in the end, it went not with a bang, but with a whimper.
At the top of the season, Solberg made much of the need to rebuild confidence after being dropped by Hyundai. He wanted to win stages, to lead rallies, to win rallies. And the crown?
That didn’t really matter. The title would be nice, but most important was his desire to demonstrate his speed in an increasingly crowded – not to mention talented – category.
Putting that to him, Solberg pulls the omnipresent Monster Energy cap a little lower.
“Yeah,” he said. “Now I know the championship is finished… maybe it would have been nice to win it. Tonight, everything is a little bit tough. Not to get a clean stage and a chance to show some speed and to have some fun in front of these amazing people, that’s not so nice.”
There’s a long pause. Solberg’s considering his words carefully.
“I told you I wanted to win some stages,” he said. “I think we’ve done that. We have set a lot of fastest times and we’ve had a lot of fun this year.
“That’s the focus for the rest of the year now. I want to go to the next rallies and win some more stages and hopefully some more rallies.
“We’ve had a few problems, a few issues this year, it’s been a fairly tough one – one that hasn’t gone our way.”
Finland helped. The smile’s back.
“That was fantastic,” he said. “I just loved that rally. I went there with a little bit of pressure: I’d started twice and crashed badly twice, but to make sixth overall was something special for me.
“Our season’s not done yet – we still have plenty of time to make some more results and to have some more fun.”
Solberg’s more measured now, determined to let his driving do the talking. It has. And it’s been getting louder and louder.
The statistics determine he’s set more fastest times than anybody in WRC2 and he’s led more rallies this season. He deserves to be back at the top table. A table he should never have left in the first place.